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gUniversal Churchh Evangelization Project

Tatsuya Nagashima

The World of Buddhism

  gThe World Almanac 2001h tells that in Northern America the Christians are 258,770,000 and the Buddhists are 2,637,000.  It means that the Christian-Buddhist  proportion is approximately of a hundred to one.  It interested me, because in my country the Christian-Buddhist proportion is approximately of one to a hundred.  One per cent Christians in Japan are comparable to one per cent Buddhists in Nothern America.

  Tokushima, where we live, is in Shikoku Island in south to Osaka.  It is noted for its eighty-eight Buddhist temples for a traditional pilgrimage. The Great Master Kobo, alias Kuhkai, learned Mahayana doctrines in China, preached Shingon (mantra) Buddhism in the Nineth Century.  Having had the severest discipline for many years in deep mountains, he was told to obtain miraculous power to save the farmers from famine, begging rainfall from heaven.  After his death the followers built a number of temples honoring the saint miracle-doer. 

  Owing to the fact that Buddhistic influence has been strong for centuries, Tokushima is only the big city in Shikoku where no Christian schools have ever been opened.  As you rarely see a Buddhist in the US, we rarely see a Christian in Japan, much less in Tokushima. 

   In such a Buddhistic province my wife and I have been living for almost ten years. You can see white-linen clad pilgrims with a straw hat on head, a long stick in hand, walking on the roads, visiting temples, honoring the great guru.  You can imagine how the New Church can survive here, as if you imagined how Buddhism could survive in Bryn Athyn.  Since 1989, more than 100 people were baptized by the visiting bishops in my country, but none is from Tokushima.    

 

A New Approach with a New Trial

 The Divine Providence however opened a new way for the people here, when we successfully invited some sixty citizens to a public hall last year and Bishop Alfred Acton talked to the people on death issue.  We introduced the speaker as the former president of Bryn Athyn College, a professional scholar in classic languages, philosophy and theology.  The topic  was gBeyond Onefs Deathh focusing on the human glife and deathh issue with near-death experiences.

Last october in 2001, my negotiation with the dean Prof. Manabu Abe, Shikoku University, was successful. They invited Prof. Alfred Acton to talk on the topic of gCounselling the Dyingh to 160 Social Welfare majors.  Alfred Acton and@Henrietta were warmly welcome and we dined together with all the administative staff including the President Fukuoka and the owner of the college Mrs. Hisako Sato. One hour and a half lecture was attentively listened to, and quite a few good questions followed. Anyway, we collected the questionaires and following is the result:@

1.Was the lecture adequate for the topic gCounselling the Dyingh?  Affirmative-99.2%
2.Do you think that the message is acceptable?                   Affirmative-83.8%.

3.Does the message give the power to live your own life?           Affirmative-59.5%. 

4.Can you use the message for those who are at the terminal crisis?  Affirmative-79.3%.

5.Do you want to hear such a message again?                     Affirmative-92.3%.

  Mr. Actonfs message was logically well-ordered and clearly delivered. It would have been better transmitted if they had understood his English, but simultaneous interpretation is always necessary for this kind of lecture. The message was so well accepted that 92 per cent of the students showed their desires to listen to him again.  Wasnft it an encouraging sign of success?  Let me pick up some comments in person:

I have come to know that the death issue is simple and clear.  I highly appreciate Mr. Actonfs message, because I first got a positive view about death. 

I was attracted by the speakerfs view in which the death and love are conjoined.  It will be a high time for the dying, if one terminates his own life while being loved.

I knew that death is not painful.  It is tranquil and beautiful.

Prof. Alfred Actonfs message was acceptable.  I have come to know the way how to face the dying person.

The speaker was frank and sociable.  I really want to see him again if I have a chance.

His message was very well supported by his own experiences.  His idea about terrorism was also clear and agreeable. 

I was surprised that the speaker used an example from a coed.  But, that is why the issue was so well clarified.

I was very much attracted by Prof. Actonfs speech.  It was very good for me to listen to him.

I would pray at a death bed, if I were a Christian.

I was very much moved by his speech.  It is wonderful to tell the truth to a dying person who you love.

I have got a great compassion to the English-Japanese interrelated message.  It was also good to hear a well-organized step by step procedures.

I got convinced of my own progress as a human being while listening to him.   

  The message was not a type of evangelization nor a type of the doctrinal studies, but  one which is similar to courses in ethics, sociology, nursery, psychology, education, philosophy, etc. at any educational institution.  Still the given message contained quite a few rational truths supported by higher spiritual truths revealed by the Writings. I have discovered that the listeners had changed their idea of gdeathh from a sorrowful, fatal, desperate connotation to a quiet, beautiful and lovable one.

  On one hand, such project fails to show visible result in New Church evangelization.  After the lecture, nobody asked for a copy of the Writings, nor decided to read the Bible or go to church, if any.  None is curious about the speakerfs religious background except that he was a Christian.  Still on the other hand, well-cultivated rational truths derived from the Word come into the listenerfs minds and possibly get some rooting within.  The Word was spread, even wrapped with some deducted truths.

 

The Universal Church viwed from the New Church

 It was almost a miracle that 160 college students listened to a New Church bishopfs message in the area of the conservative Buddhists.  It is how the Lord works upon them from now that counts, and nothing else. But is this a new type of outreach which may be called gUniversal Churchh Evangelization ?  The Writings tell about the universal church as follows:

gThe Lordfs church is scattered over the entire globe of the world.  So it is universal.  And in this church are all those who lived in the good of charity according to their religion. And the church, in which the Word is and the Lord is known thereby, is in those who are outiside of the church. It is as though heart and lungs, from which all the viscera and members of the body are animated variously according to their forms, locations and conjunctionsh (HH328, trans.) 

gThe Lordfs church is universal, because the church is in all those who are in the good of life, aspire for heaven from their doctrine, and thereby conjoin themselves with the Lordh(AE331a, trans.).

  Generally, in such a non-Christian country where 99% of its population are Buddhists, Shintoists and indifferentists, direct doctrinal teachings are beyond their means.  In the West, onefs sincere question will be how three Persons can be in One God, and luckily could find solution in the New Church doctrine. In Japan however one might ask why more than three, because Buddhistic images can be found in thousand human bodies.  Moreover, no wonder if there were eight million gods in Shintoism.  Enigmatism conjoined with inscrutability could insinuate some holiness within, which easily leads one to conjecture that the logical clarity in religion might be a sign of shallowness.  

  In groping to know how to reach people, we should see their needs in terms of status-quo humanness.@To the mental soil which is not so much rationally cultivated as practically, we must take a practical approach.  The people here are much less excited to rebuke the imputative transference of our Lordfs victory to human beings for salvation, than to think of a happy state of purified mind from greeds.  Since gtruthh and gcorrectnessh are hardly distinguishable from each other, affection for the truth is hardly noticed, because they seek correctness more than truth.  The affection for truth however is indispensable for understanding doctrines of the New Church.

  For these two decades, my struggle has mainly been focused on the New Church core-making, based upon the sound understanding of the heavenly doctrines, because there is no church without sound understanding of the pure doctrines (cf. TCR245).

  What is revealed by the Writings is absolutely true, but how to apply each doctrinal truth to each particularity must be determined by human endeavor and trail.  As Rome is not built in a day, so the Church is not built in a day, either.  It is going to be built for eternity in the spiritual world and in heavens.  Actually there was a long history on earth before the high time finally arrived for the Lordfs Second Coming.  The Writings are also indicative about it as follows:

 gAs for the reformation of the nations, they were not all in the same devotion nor in the same doctrine, because they were not all of the same natural disposition nor were they  all educated and taught similarly from infancy. The Lord does never break the living principles which a person learns from infancy, but He bends them. If there are some things which are revered as sacred and not against the Divine and natural order, and if they are indifferent in itself, the Lord leaves them alone.  He is patient enough to let them remain in personsh  (AC1255, trans.).

 While translating gArcana Caelestiah into my language, I sometimes appalled by the truths which had never come into my mind.  One of them was how the Lord revealed Himself to Abram as Shaddai, saying gI am god Shaddaih. God Shaddai is the name of idol which was first represented to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (AC1992B)D

@When the first Christian missionary Francis Xavier came to our country in 1549, he knew no vocabulary in Japanese.  When his interpreter Yajiro was asked how to say gGodh in Japanese, he borrowed gDainichi (the universal Buddha representing the Sun)h from Mahayana Buddhism ? because they had no Japanese equivalent to God .  Xavier went out and preached on the street saying , gWorship Dainichi!h.  Afterwards however, finding out that Dainichi was the Buddhistic divine, he rushed back to the street exclaiming, gDonft worship Dainichi!h  In the long run, the pioneer Jesuits decided to employ the Latin gDeush instead, and preached gDeusu o ogame! ? Worship Deus!h.  I wonder how Xavier would have preached, if he had known and believed the following:

@gThe Lord wanted first to be represented before them by the name of Shaddai.

It was because He does not want to break suddenly, much less in a moment, someonefs devotion inseminated from infancy. If this were done, it would eradicate and destroy the sanctity of onefs worship and devotion which had long been implanted.  The Lord never breaks but bends. The holiness of devotion inrooted from infancy should not be voilated, but it needs a slow and gentle bendingh (AC1992C).

  The Writings seem to tell us that the angelic instruction will also be given without destroying their born and bred propensities if there is charity within.

gThis has something similar to do with the gentiles who while being in the body worshiped idols but lived in mutual charity. In the other life, their honliness in devotion inrooted from infancy is not taken away in a moment but successively. The goods and truths of faith can be easily implanted in those who lived in mutual charity.  Afterwards they receive them in joy, because charity is the soil itself. This happened to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The Lord was patient enough to retain the name of god Shaddai so much so that He even said to them that He was god Shaddaih  (ibid.).    

 

Outreaching Approach by the Derived Truths

gUniversal Churchh evangelization will be a new approach to the public. Each one of us can help the Lord come to the common people through a pipeline of solving problematic issues of the modern world. @Onefs conversion into the New Church is not aimed as the end in view, but we invariably show respect to the other faiths and religons as far as there is the good of charity in it.  Laymen prepare the way so that the priests may come and teach, give a lecture on whatever topic it might be.  The possible themes will be as follows:

1. Life and Death ? Near death experiences, euthanasia, death in dignity, terminal care,

                 hospice, etc.

2. Meical Ethics ? Brain death, translaplation, surrogate gestation, designer genes,

                ariticifical organs, croning, etc.

3. War and Peace -  Self-defense & collective defense, terrorism, suicidal martyrdom, etc.

4. Society & Government ? Globalization, Cross-cultural communication, etc.

5. School Education ? Bullying, School disintegration, value of life, creativeness, etc.

6. Child-Caring ? Family love, domestic voilence, parentsf absence at home, etc.

7. Crisis in Life ? Diseases, joblessness, divorces, separation, bereavement, etc. 

8. Mental Diseases ? Mental suppression, shame, topor, frustration, fear, resident-care

9. Gender Issues ? Choice of partners, discrimination, uses of both sexes, prostitution, etc.

10. Seniorfs Life ? Long life & its value, comfort & happiness, hobbies &   

                commitments,etc.,

11. Christianity ? Doctrinal basis, morality, life view, world view, prayers, etc.

12. Religion in General ? Judaism, Islamism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.   

@At any rate, this project is worth to be given by the General Church ministers, because no issues are solved without the heavenly doctrines which only are the source of unfathomable Wisdom.  The Word can be sown in the hungry minds through mediate words from the Word.  The New Church can help all those of other religions to be enforced with their own good of charity and conjoined with the Lord.

 

Evangelization: Growth through Pains

@Since the start of the New 21st Century, we know that the General Church has launched a good deal of new projects of evangelization.  Through Bishop Bussf gA Plan for the General Churchh, the recent editions of gMissionary Memoh and gNew Church Lifeh, we are informed of a drastic increase of evangelical ideas with the practical growth of inquirers through the successful outreach programs.  gThe Future of Evangelizationh by Rev. Grant R. Schnarr in gMMh reports the outstanding result of various programs. That was beyond my imagination in 1983 when I first visited Bryn Athyn.  The General Church has grown at unexpected speed last two decades.

  Rev. Eric Bussfs gFreely Giveh is also a product of the New Century.  He invites the people to join those who invite others. Why do we have to invite the people into the New Church?  The answer is different in each personfs commitment and level of regeneration, from natural level to rational, rational to spiritual, spiritual to celestial.  But one thing is common: we must grow.

  Bishop Kingfs gUNC - Universal New Churchh project in Philippines is also noteworthy. He explained by his letter as follows: It is an outreach effort by San Diego Society of the New Church.  It does not seek members for the General Church.  It seeks to strengthen individuals, organizations and groups of worshippers who would like to investigate the Writings of Swedenborg to incorporate them in their worship and value systems.h (Oct. 5, 2001).  

  Evangelization ? whatever form it might be, or whatever success or failure it might  result in, is a continuous struggle against solitariness, despair and frustration through trails, errors and pains.  We just intrude into the hellish domain face to face, hearing their discouraing voices shouting gStop it. Itfs no avail!h. We often cry out with David , gLord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me.  Many are they who say of me, eThere is no help for him in Godf.h(Psalm3).

 The moment we switch the channel, the Lord quietly says, g Be of good cheer, I have overcome the worldh (John 16:33).  Actually One who fights against them is He.

The New Church is a militant church.  If you donft fight, you will lose.

 We can scarecely find quotations from the Writings which directly encourage us to advocate evangelization. However Swedenborg himself spent a half of his life evangelizing the Lordfs Second Advent.  By his evangelization we have come to know the Lord.  That is a good enough incentive which could ever be given.